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The Monomyth and the Four Stages of Existentialism

Cognisant

Condescending Bastard
Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
7,687
#1
Stage One: Shock & Denial
As children we are taught notions like morality and justice like they're irrefutable laws of nature, stage one comes after reality refutes this by imposing itself upon the protagonist in some way. They suffer some kind of injustice or some evil goes unpunished, thus the protagonist is confronted with a truth that they are neither able to understand nor accept and so they reject it. For example Luke Skywalker coming home to find the charred skeletal remains of his aunt and uncle, a clearly unjust fate for them and a baffling tragedy for him. Were he already an existentialist he probably would have stayed there, told Obi-Wan to take the droids and leave, then buried his aunt and uncle and effectively inherited the farm, not a very exciting story but there you go.

But he doesn't do this because he doesn't understand why the empire would do something so evil, and because this perceived evil has occurred Luke believes it is his duty to seek justice. So he leaves to join the resistance, one farm boy from a backwater planet seeking vengeance against an interstellar empire. Of course we all know how this story goes for him, being a special snowflake force user, but consider how it goes for every other backwater planet farm boy who joins the resistance, if the films are anything to go by they have quite the mortality rate.

Stage Two: The Lowest Point
It takes more than just reading about existentialism to make someone an existentialist indeed the latter tends to precede the former, an existentialist's awakening, their "dark night of the soul" tends to occur at the lowest point of their life (thus far). This is a time when they find themselves bereft of assurances or consolation and are forced to confront the painful truth head on, that everything they believe in is a lie. Luke's lowest point came in the second film when he sought to rescue his friends from cloud city, ended up in a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader and was told the now famous line "Luke, I am your father". Right up until this point Luke believed that he was a hero, that he was going to stop the empire and save the universe, that he was successfully getting justice for his aunt and uncle, but with one sentence Vader crushed his idealism by telling Luke that if he was going to achieve/be any of that then he would have to kill his own father.

I'm not saying Darth Vader being Luke's father made everything evil the empire had done suddenly okay, quite the opposite in fact, Darth Vader being Luke's father makes all of that so much worse because it shatter's Luke's certainty that he was doing the "right" thing. Being loyal to his family is one of Luke's fundamental character traits but now he can't do that, he must either turn his back on his father who is trying to reconnect with him or allow himself the opportunity to reconcile with his father but in doing so betray the people that raised him. Either way he's ridden with guilt and uncertainty, thus he is no longer able to believe that there is an inherent morality or justice in the universe, again I must stress this doesn't mean the crimes committed by the Darth Vader and the empire aren't terrible it just means that Luke can no longer see them as simply "the bad guys that ought to be killed", he doesn't want to kill his father, he wants to save him.

Stage Three: Acceptance
Coming to terms with the full ramifications of existentialism doesn't happen right away, it takes time, it is a process that involves a lot of anger, angst, denial and depression, such a total upheaval of one's worldview requires a lot of contemplation to complete. In the movie "Return of the Jedi" Luke appears in Jabba's palace dressed in a jet black suit reminiscent of Darth Vader's armor (a character who could be considered an embodiment of existential nihilism) but he's there on a mission to save his friend Han Solo from the cruel fate Vader had given him. Luke isn't becoming Vader but he has clearly internalized Vader's nihilistic message and is in the process of coming to terms with it, this is symbolized by his struggle with Jabba.

Having not quite lost the idealistic notion of himself as a hero Luke confronts Jabba head on hoping to use diplomacy and intimidation to secure a peaceful outcome and ends up in the Rancor pit as a sort of karmic justice for his naivety. Later at the Sarlacc pit he forgoes his idealism for pragmatism (not completely, but still) and saves his friends/sister with the good old fashioned "kill everyone that gets in my way" approach.

Stage Four: Full Circle
Fuck I'm tired, I'll finish this later.
The gist of it is that existential nihilism is as much a reason for not having ideals as it is a reason for not-not having ideals which is why the trilogy ends with Luke redeeming his father (however briefly) instead of killing and effectively becoming him.

If there's grammatical errors in any of the above, fuck you I'm tired.
 

Serac

Prolific Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2017
Messages
1,192
Location
Stockholm
#2
Yeah, it's the natural progression. You start out thinking there are absolute, universal values. Then you realize there are no such things, and become nihilist. And finally, if you're lucky, you realize it's up to you to define values and you become existentialist.
 
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